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Report of a Woman Asked to Stop Breastfeeding in Memphis Area Social Security Office

June 16, 2011

Via Lindsey at The Memphis Blog, I learned of a report of a woman told by security at a Memphis, TN area Social Security office that she could not breastfeed her eight-month-old baby while waiting in line at the office. When she told the officer that she had the right to breastfeed where she was, the officer and then a manager tried to shuttle her off to a conference room, and was allegedly told that the office as a federal facility has its own rules.

Problem is, there is apparently a law specifically authorizing women to breastfeed on federal property where they are otherwise allowed to be – and it’s been law for more than a decade (see section 647).

Tennessee law is also quite clear, stating that “A mother has a right to breastfeed her child who is twelve (12) months of age or younger in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present,” and is specifically exempted from charges of indecent exposure (see title 68, chapter 58).

Even that 12-month age limit will be removed this year; a bill doing so was signed into law in April and will take effect July 1.

To be clear, I don’t know the blogger reporting this experience and have no firsthand knowledge of the report. However, I haven’t seen any news outlets (aside from Lindsey) pick up on the story and investigate it further, so I thought I’d give it a signal boost, and also use the opportunity to remind people of the law.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 8:50 am

    I’m the person mentioned in the story. Thanks for the signal boost!

  2. Erin permalink
    June 16, 2011 10:33 am

    Thank you for nursing in public Ashley – and for trying to enlighten the security and manager in regards to the law! So glad the 12 month age limit will be lifted – how asinine to have had it in the first place.

  3. June 16, 2011 10:36 am

    Thanks for the link, Rachel, and for your help!

  4. June 16, 2011 10:44 am

    Sad. Ridiculous. Inconsiderate. Disrespectful. I don’t understand why people still don’t get it. A baby gets hungry.

  5. sarah permalink
    June 16, 2011 1:37 pm

    i personally would be more comfortable in a provided room then in line at an office, breast is best! if u cant get to a quiet spot then by all means breastfeed where you are, but if something more quiet is offered, id take it. Were they being rude and pushy ashley or trying to be helpfull, this article isnt clear.

    • June 16, 2011 2:12 pm

      Sarah, you can follow the links here back to the original post and coverage of it, which explains in more detail the interaction. Regardless of your personal comfort level or the attitude of the workers, the right to breastfeed there is explicitly protected by state and federal law.

  6. onesillyme permalink
    June 18, 2011 7:20 pm

    I had my twins in the late 80′s and a single child in the mid-90′s. Husband had crazy work hours, so if shopping happened it was with babies in tow. I used to set up camp on the floor (ick) in the restroom, preferably in a handicapped stall so I had enough room to juggle kids and equipment. Felt horribly guilty monopolizing that big stall but really didn’t have a better option. Worst was stores that would not let you nurse “in public” but also had no “public restroom.” Sometimes we ended up in the car (and spending money elsewhere) but occasionally I got access by pointing out the mess 3 little girls who couldn’t hold it any longer would leave them to deal with. I quit nursing the twins by 6 months, in large part because my employer wouldn’t allow time or space to pump. Ironically, I worked for a state child support enforcement agency! Younger daughter nursed until 11 mos so I didn’t quite make it to 12 mos even as a stay home mom that time around. I’m glad laws are now in place, but very discouraged to hear attitudes and education have changed so little.

  7. September 29, 2011 5:37 pm

    Wow what a great story this is! Good for you Ashley.

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